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Tuesday 23 Jul 2024

To Spank or Not
Michael Irwin

When I was growing up, my parents were not my friends; they were my parents. Despite this, I had a great childhood. We were a middleclass family, fortunate enough to take vacations and go on short day trips. Our parents supported my siblings and in most of our activities. I learned about responsibility, respect for myself and others, and the difference between right and wrong. I wasn’t a perfect child, but I was far from some of the horror stories you read about or see plastered all over the Internet today.

Even so, when I made a mistake or acted out of line, I knew I was accountable for my actions.

My sisters and I were subject to some of the normal forms of childhood punishment, including groundings, having our toys taken away, being sent to our room, and of course the occasional spanking—if it was warranted. There were no belts or any other miscellaneous torture devices involved, just a hand to our bare bottoms. And boy, did it get the point across. I can’t remember a time in my life when I made the same mistake twice after a spanking. The pain didn’t change my mind. The embarrassment, of what took place, the disappointment I caused my parents changed my mind.

My wife didn’t have it as easy as us. She grew up fearing her father; he routinely used a belt for spankings, which occurred frequently. Punishment came if she left her room to use the bathroom during the night, left a belonging on the floor or had the slightest spat with her brother or sister. Her parents divorced. My wife had a hard time forgiving her father for how treated, as a child; so did her siblings.

Fast-forward 30 years, and a quick search on the Internet easily shows where most parents stand on the issue of spanking today. Articles quote studies that claim spanking leads to anxiety, depression and drug use, aggression as well as psychiatric, behavioural and emotional problems. Corporal punishment causes children to lash out against other children and animals, and to demand instant satisfaction of all his wants or needs. Occasionally it’s possible to find an article that highlights the benefits of spanking, as a form of discipline. Such proponents of corporal punishment are called child abusers by parents who “know” their parenting styles are better than are mine.

I don’t condone child abuse or the type of punishment that my wife received growing up, but I don’t agree with the lack of discipline and punishment children receive nowadays. It’s a daily occurrence that I see children acting out in public, talking back to their parents, or being disrespectful to others around them. The same parents talking about how spanking is the evil of the world seem to be the ones giving in to their children’s every want and desire just to shut them up. My parents demanded respect and good behavior and rewarded us for our good deeds far more than they punished us. Apparently, now we’re a society of wimps, over-sensitized by the media and afraid to do anything that goes against the norm.

To spank or not to spank that is the question. Not every form of discipline and punishment will work for every child, but there has to be consistency with whatever choice parents make. If you don’t believe that spanking works for your child, than don’t use it, but replace it with a form of discipline that does. Don’t pass off the punishment to the other parent or spouse. Children can understand empty threats and will eventually learn to ignore them altogether. All parents have to be active in the discipline process for it to be effective. If you don’t have an agreement with your spouse, partner or other parent, sit down and come up with a disciplinary plan.

While you may find research that suggests spanking may be an ineffective form of punishment, many parents, including myself, find that it works when nothing else will. If you decide to use spanking as a form of discipline, ensure your child knows the consequences for those specific actions that will result in a spanking.

The choice is ultimately up to you and the laws in your state or country, so don’t let other parents get under your skin if this is the type of discipline you decide to use. My parents spanked me and I turned out just fine, thank you.

*The author is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. He frequently writes for Media Shower, an on-line content marketing company.

Michael Irwin lives in the Washington, DC, area. He writes a variety of topics.

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